Pascal Siakam has done everything for the Toronto Raptors this season, and barring injury he'll likely be named an All-Star.
While the spotlight has been on Siakam this year and what he's done in Kawhi Leonard's absence, we should also start paying attention to what Fred VanVleet - because like Siakam, he should be getting All-Star consideration too.
Yes, he's been that good.
So what would an All-Star push for VanVleet look like?
It's worth remembering that Kemba Walker and Kyrie Irving were voted as starters in the Eastern Conference a year ago, a fact that remains unlikely to change even as Irving continues to miss time. He's as popular as any player in the league and Walker is still playing at an All-Star level on a Boston team which will have a good record come All-Star selection time.
So if Freddy V were to make it it will have to come as a reserve. And when you look at his numbers compared to the rest of the Eastern Conference guards, he's in a better spot than most would initially think.
Bradley Beal made his second All-Star appearance last year in Charlotte and has elevated his game to an even higher level - so expect him to be in Chicago. Khris Middleton, who made his first appearance last season, should once again receive strong consideration with the Bucks on the verge of running away with the best record in the East.
Here's where it opens up. Victor Oladipo was named to last year's roster but has yet to step onto the floor this season due to injury. Fellow 2019 All-Star Ben Simmons is seeing career-lows in points, rebounds, assists and field goal percentage for a 76ers team that's underachieved over the first six weeks and may not be the lock most assumed he'd be entering the season.
And VanVleet's teammate Kyle Lowry - who represented the Raptors for the fifth time as an All-Star last year - has missed 11 games.
Through 19 games this season, VanVleet is averaging career-highs in points, assists and steals. He's also stepped up big in the absence of five-time All-Star Kyle Lowry's been out since early November.
Without Lowry, VanVleet is putting up averages of 21.2 points, 7.5 assists and 2.4 steals. He's shooting 44.4% from the field and 40.2% from three - All-Star calibre numbers.
In fact, those numbers are on par with Lowry's career-best season in 2016-17 where he earned his third All-Star spot.
|Kyle Lowry's All-Star 2016-17||22.4||7.0||1.5||46.4%||41.2%|
|Fred VanVleet without Lowry this season||21.2||7.5||2.4||44%||40.2%|
"I've always (known) the type of player he (is), and kind of like his leadership and be able to kind of take control of the team and making sure that we all are in the right spot," Siakam told reporters after the Raptors victory over the Jazz. "I think it's always good to have him out there kind of like getting us calm and making sure that we're executing.
"Obviously, he's always shot the ball well so that already with the playmaking ability. He's playing great basketball right now. It's unbelievable to see, I'm happy for him and you know I think as long as we're all playing well and we're winning it's all good for us."
If you assume Irving, Walker, Beal and Middleton will earn spots, that leaves two or potentially three guard spots up for grabs. When you look around the East at the opposing guards, the competition isn't that steep.
Trae Young and Zach Lavine are both enjoying great season statically speaking. Young's 28.4 points per game is the most for qualified point guards according to ESPN Stats and Info. Lavine isn't far behind at 22.2 points per game. But while their individual stats are impressive, the Bulls and Hawks are near the bottom of the Eastern Conference as they've struggled to find wins.
Jaylen Brown is enjoying a career-year but could be lost behind Walker and Jayson Tatum who both deserve the nod before him. It's difficult to imagine the Celtics getting three All-Stars before the Raptors if the Raptors continue to hold an edge in the standings.
Malcolm Brogdon - who's in the same mould of VanVleet - has been terrific for the Pacers and deserves consideration but not above VanVleet who played as well as Brogdon on a better team.
If we're sticking with the formula that the coaches have used in the past when voting for reserves VanVleet checks all the boxes. The numbers are there and he's been impactful night in and night out on a winning team.
Just how much have the Raptors relied on Fred VanFinals? He's currently leading the entire league in minutes per game. Don't forget that in addition to the departure of Leonard and the injury to Lowry, the Raptors also lost Danny Green which left a considerable hole in the backcourt that VanVleet filled alongside Lowry prior to the 33-year-old's thumb injury.
Whenever there's a conversation around All-Stars it seems to veer towards a lifetime achievement award. VanVleet's past seasons don't suggest he's an All-Star, but if the game is to reward the best players in the NBA this season and this season alone then Fred VanVleet should be in the conversation.
He's been one of the best players on one of the best teams in the NBA.
Fred VanVleet should be an All-Star.
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